Picture this: you’ve just made a purchase online, and now the company wants you to fill out a survey. While you were choosing your product, you were very happy with the customer service, but frustrated with the poor website design that made the transaction confusing.
The survey asks you to rate your experience on a scale of poor to excellent by checking a box.
What’s missing in this scenario? It’s a chance to provide proper customer feedback, more specifically open feedback. You’d love to tell them the customer service was great, but there’s no space to do so. Even more than that, you really want to let the company know they should make their website design more user-friendly.
Open-feedback questions in a customer feedback survey give you the chance to do just that.
These kinds of questions let customers say exactly what they’re thinking or feeling, giving the company qualitative data to work with. This can create various benefits - four of the most important ones are explored below.
Table of Contents
Why Is Open Customer Feedback So Important?
Letting Customers Feel Heard
Open-ended feedback gives customers the chance to share exactly what they want to say. Sometimes that means providing the space for them to write out many paragraphs’ worth of opinions, both positive and negative - all of which can help you to improve your company.
Customers that feel like their suggestions are being taken on board will have a more positive experience with your company, since they’ll know their voice matters. This helps push them to leave positive reviews. And when up to 98% of buyers check customer reviews before buying a product, those reviews make a huge difference.
SurveyMonkey's 2018 Buyer Trust report even found that 82% of its respondents trusted customer reviews more than the company’s own posts.
Ensuring that you’re both using NPS feedback well and providing the space for your customers to leave more detailed comments is therefore really, really important.
If your customers keep writing in your survey that you should switch to more suitable online store platforms, for example, then you can bring in lots more good reviews by taking that suggestion on board.
Another great side effect of creating a space for customers to share their thoughts is that it builds trust for the brand. When companies address your personal compliments and/or grievances, that makes your connection to those companies feel more real, more human.
Generating A Boost In Sales
A company that’s good at effectively using customer reviews to boost sales will get the most out of open customer feedback. As has been explained above, addressing the concerns that customers raise in open feedback surveys will generate more positive reviews - and those in turn help to draw in new leads.
But there’s more to the whole matter than that.
A survey that asks the right questions can easily be used to figure out which factors helped push customers to finalize their purchase.
For example, eCommerce relies on the use of excellent website design tactics, so having the chance to let customers tell you about their opinions on your website design is immensely valuable. Your business can capitalize on the parts customers enjoyed and improve those they did not.
Based on statistical analysis, a whopping 95% of all purchases will be made through eCommerce platforms by 2040. This highlights how important it is to maximize a company’s online impact. You can do this by listening to customers’ comments on the subject.
Qualitative Data Analytics
Of course, open customer feedback responses on their own won’t do much good without someone to analyze them. Data is only as valuable as the analytics that emerge from it.
On their own, great eCommerce analytics can already make a massive difference to the way an online business is run. But when paired with qualitative data that emerges from careful analysis of open-feedback comments, the overall impact of the analytics can reach new heights.
Qualitative data often speaks for a smaller set of subjects. However, it’s able to provide a valuable in-depth look at the specifics of those individuals, thereby helping the business hone in closely on their target audience.
This type of analysis is therefore invaluable to businesses hoping to build their online store and improve on their eCommerce solutions since they’ll be able to tailor their patches and fixes very specifically to that customer feedback.
Quantitative data may cast a broader net in terms of the number of responses, but it can’t compare with the quality and level of personalization that comes with qualitative data. That’s a major advantage open-feedback has over multiple-choice customer feedback surveys and one that businesses can capitalize on in many ways.
Customer Feedback Drives Improvement
This is the biggest reason to ask for any kind of feedback, period - and it applies doubly to the open-response kind. In the end, survey questions should be geared towards getting responses that will drive improvement. And how better to do that than to let customers have the space to write down exactly what they think the business should improve?
Let’s look at an example. Say your clients think your website is geared too much towards mobile solutions, which makes it difficult to reach a real person when they’re having issues.
That’s helpful customer feedback because now you know you should be looking for a free virtual phone system to bridge that gap and increase accessibility.
Once you’ve figured out that a virtual phone is exactly what you need, you’ll soon realize you also want free virtual phone numbers to really maximize their utility.
You’ll also want to look into the best VoIP service provider so your clients can reach the customer service line without needing to touch their phones.
All of those major improvements stem from just one important idea among the open-response feedback your company received. Imagine what else you can accomplish by letting that customer feedback drive your company’s development strategies!
How To Ask For Feedback From Customers
So, it’s pretty clear now that using open-feedback questions in surveys can be hugely helpful to any business. But how do you go about asking for it?
In that regard, there are a few different tips to keep in mind. These apply whether you already regularly send out surveys or not - there’s always room for improvement, after all.
1. Make Giving Feedback Easy
No customer wants to spend hours answering endless questions, whether they’re multiple choice or not. Likewise, no one enjoys being asked to complete a survey and then having to search for the link to it.
The point is to make the process as simple as possible for prospective survey respondents.
If you’re sending out survey links in emails, why not take the time to ask customers whether they’d prefer to have them sent via text message, either instead of or as well?
This suggestion is based on the fact that, according to Upland Adestra, the majority of emails are opened on mobile devices, as the graphic below shows.
So, if customers are receiving your communications on their mobile devices, make it easy for them to complete your surveys on those devices.
In any case, it’s always good to keep questions short and to the point - and to have fewer questions. Just one simple ‘tell us any thoughts you have’ can be far more effective than 20 different questions asking for too many highly specific opinions.
2. Use Customer Feedback Tools
A crucial part of making it easy for customers to leave feedback is to ensure that you’re giving them the right tools to do so.
Make sure that you’re optimizing your tools according to what kinds of customer feedback you’re searching for, and how you plan to get it. A tool that makes it difficult for your customers to type responses on mobile devices will get you fewer responses, especially if your customers tend to access that tool from their phones.
It’s worth looking into the most popular tools on the market, such as Qualaroo, Zonka Feedback, Mopinion, or even something simpler like SurveyMonkey. You can then consider which of these tools is best suited to your specific needs.
3. Stick to These Best Practices When Formulating Customer Feedback Questions
The most important idea is simple: don’t push the customer for a specific response.
This one rule should dictate all your question formulation practices. If you’re thinking of asking for feedback on one specific part of the process, you’ll inherently be pushing customers away from commenting on other aspects. In other words, you’ll be restricting their free responses.
Make sure that any questions you pose are as open-ended as possible. Don’t set the tone – let the customers do that. Focus on giving the customer the space they need to share their thoughts and feelings with you, not on corralling them into saying exactly what you hope they’ll say.
4. Let Customers Direct The Flow Of Their Responses
Asking a customer questions like “was your favorite part of the process the checkout?” will produce less helpful responses than something more open-ended, such as simply asking what their favorite part was.
The goal is to let customers set the tone of the response instead of gearing them up to say something specific that you’ve already chosen for them.
For example, let’s say a customer found your eCommerce platform through social media. It would be somewhat helpful to ask whether they saw your ad on Twitter or Facebook, sure - but wouldn’t you rather know why they chose to follow it?
When you ask questions beginning with ‘why’ you’re giving customers the opportunity to really point you to the important parts. They’ll outline reasons for you, and then your team can use that as a springboard to keep developing the good and ironing out the bad.
5. Be Prepared For The Results
You’ve made it easy for your customers to respond to your survey, they’ve tailored the questions themselves, and you’ve kept it short and simple. The data is starting to come in. Now what?
This tip is in a similar category to ensuring you’ve got great analytics. Basically, since it’s qualitative data, the actual individual pieces of customer feedback you’ll receive can - and should! - vary wildly in their contents. Customers won’t always distinguish between positive and negative feedback.
While this is helpful in verifying that the answers you get are really honest, it can make data analysis a lot more complicated.
The most helpful thing to do here is to have a really solid plan in place for what to do with the data when it does come in.
If you run a small business, make sure you’ve got the best phone systems for small business owners, so that all your employees can be alerted right away via their company mobile devices.
Qualitative analysis is time-consuming, so every minute you can buy helps. To that end, having great small business MDM (mobile device management) software in place can be a real lifesaver.
In short, it’s important to prepare your teams (and their devices) properly so no one gets overwhelmed and so everyone is prepared to get the most out of the data. This way you’ll really squeeze every drop of usefulness out of the customers’ responses.
Your business will be able to grow more, and your customers will feel they’re receiving a personalized experience. It’s a win-win!
Open Customer Feedback Takeaways
Open-response surveys can be hugely helpful to any business. They give customers a chance to interact with the brand, and when customers’ opinions are taken on board, these can really help create a positive impact on the company’s future.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that every question in every survey should be formatted as an open-response feedback box, though.
Sometimes, when you want a simple yes-or-no type of answer, multiple-choice is more helpful. It would feel like the survey had been poorly organized if it asked respondents to manually type out single-word answers.
That’s not where open-response feedback’s strength lies either. The most helpful thing this type of customer feedback can let companies identify is the why.
A multiple-choice question can ask whether you enjoyed your experience, and to what extent; an open feedback space can ask you for the reasons you enjoyed or didn’t enjoy it.
Those reasons - good or bad - can then become talking points for your company’s business strategy team. Half of the customers really loved the company’s color scheme? See where else you can use a similar scheme to create a sense of visual unity and draw customers in.
Almost all the survey respondents thought your team seemed disorganized? That might not be nice to hear, but it gives you a push to look into some great free online file share software that’ll help you work more cohesively.
Open-feedback responses let your customers show you your own strongest and weakest points. Your team can then use this opportunity to improve on the bad and reinforce the good.
Richard Conn is the Senior Director, Search Marketing for RingCentral, a global leader in unified communications and VoIP service provider.
He is passionate about connecting businesses and customers and has experience working with Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Experian, Target, Nordstrom, Kayak, Hilton, and Kia. Richard has written for sites such as Cincopa and Multibriefs.